taco stuffed shells

$14.65 recipe / $1.47 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.90 from 19 votes
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But Mom! Everyone else is doing it!

I don’t know who the first person was to stuff pasta shells with taco fillings, but it’s definitely a good idea. I kept seeing taco shells around the internet, so I had to make some, Budget Bytes style.

I made this recipe affordable by using homemade enchilada sauce (takes less than ten minutes), homemade taco seasoning (takes about two minutes), and beans cooked from dry in my slow cooker (cooked ahead of time and kept in the freezer until used). It took a little thinking ahead, but it definitely saved some bucks.

This recipe ended up being a little more work than I anticipated and I dirtied more dishes than I like to, but in the end it was well worth it. It made a HUGE batch of ten large servings, nearly all of which went into my freezer. I’ve been eating these amazing shells for almost a week now and have yet to get tired of them!

I didn’t realize that the ground beef I bought was in a 1.5 lb. package instead of just one pound, so thats part of why it made so much. You could also do this with just beans and no meat if you want it even less expensive!

I paired this with some cilantro lime rice and I was a happy, happy girl.

Taco Stuffed Shells

Taco Stuffed Shells scooped out of baking dish and plated

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Taco Stuffed Shells

4.90 from 19 votes
Take stuffed shells in a new direction with beef, beans, and enchilada sauce.
Servings 10
Prep 15 mins
Cook 45 mins
Total 1 hr

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil ($0.16)
  • 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
  • 1 yellow onion ($0.49)
  • 1 1/2 lb. ground beef ($6.09)
  • 2 cups black beans ($0.56)
  • 2 cups pinto beans ($0.56)
  • 1 recipe taco seasoning ($0.34)
  • 1 tsp salt ($0.05)
  • 12 oz. jumbo shells ($2.78)
  • 1 recipe red enchilada sauce ($0.77)
  • 2 cups shredded cheese ($2.50)
  • 3-4 whole green onions ($0.19)

Instructions 

  • Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Cook both in a large skillet over medium heat with the olive oil until soft and transparent (about 5 minutes).
  • Add the ground beef and continue to cook until browned. Mix together the taco seasoning ingredients while the beef is browning. Once the beef is fully cooked through, add the taco seasoning and stir to combine. Drain the beans and add to the skillet. Stir until combined. Taste and season with salt as needed (I used about 1 teaspoon).
  • Allow the beef and bean filling to sit while you cook the pasta shells. Bring a large pot to a boil, add the shells and cook just until tender. Be sure not to over cook the shells or they will be soft and difficult to fill. While the pasta shells are cooking, prepare the enchilada sauce.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Drain the shells in a colander and rinse with cold water until they are cool enough to handle. Spray the inside of a 9×13 inch casserole dish with non-stick spray. Fill the shells with the beef and bean filling and place in the casserole dish. It’s okay if they’re not aligned neatly or if they topple over and spill some filling, it will still be good.
  • Once all of the shells are filled and in the casserole dish, pour the prepared enchilada sauce over top and then add the shredded cheese. Cook in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and everything is heated through (all ingredients are already cooked, so there is no real danger of undercooking here. You just want to get it all HOT).
  • Slice the green onions and sprinkle over top after it comes out of the oven. Serve hot!

See how we calculate recipe costs here.

Notes

If you don’t want to make your own beans, taco seasoning, and enchilada sauce, here are the store bought equivalents: 1 (15 ounce) can of black beans, 1 (15 ounce) can of pinto beans, 1 packet of taco seasoning, and one (28 ounce) can of enchilada sauce.

Nutrition

Serving: 1ServingCalories: 507.13kcalCarbohydrates: 49.83gProtein: 29.21gFat: 23.14gSodium: 1073.16mgFiber: 8.5g
Have you tried this recipe?Mention @budgetbytes or tag #budgetbytes on Instagram!

Close up of three Taco Stuffed Shells on plate

Step By Step Photos

onion and garlic in pan
Start by dicing the onion and mincing the garlic. Add them to a LARGE skillet with the olive oil and cook over medium heat until soft and transparent.

ground beef added to onion and garlic
Add the ground beef and continue to cook until it is FULLY browned.

taco seasoning ingredients in mixing bowl
While the beef is browning, mix up your taco seasoning (or use a store bought packet).

taco seasoning added to pan of beef
Once the beef is fully cooked, add the taco seasoning and stir until combined.

beans added to meat in pan
taco mixture finished
Add the drained beans (because WE LOVE BEANS!). Stir until combined. Taste and add more salt if needed (I added about one teaspoon).

pasta cooking in boiling water in pot
Next, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Make sure to not let them get too soft or they’ll be all wobbly and difficult to fill. Also, while the pasta is boiling away, you can quickly prepare the enchilada sauce (because it only takes 5-10 minutes).

close up of one shell pasta filled with taco filling
baking dish of filled shells
Drain the pasta and rinse it with cool water until it’s cool enough to handle. Spray a LARGE casserole dish with non-stick spray. Fill the shells and place them in the casserole dish. I found the easiest way to fill them is to hold a shell in one hand and fill it with a spoon using the other. Now, the shells WILL topple over and spill their guts, but that’s okay because when you serve it you’ll just be scooping everything up anyway.

pouring enchilada sauce over top of filled shells
smothered shells ready to bake
Pour the enchilada sauce alllll over the whole thing. This is where it starts to get really good. Preheat your oven to 350, too.

shredded cheese on top of smothered shells
Cover that sucker with cheese and pop it in the oven. Cook it at 350 for about 30 minutes or until the whole thing is hot and the cheese is nice and melty on top.

Finished taco stuffed shells in baking dish
And then you’re in taco shell heaven. Oh yeah, sprinkle the green onions over top after it comes out of the oven.

taco shells portioned out into Tupperware containers
As usual, I portioned the whole thing out before refrigerating. I actually ran out of containers, that’s how much it made. Most of these containers ended up in the freezer after they cooled in the fridge. I also added a scoop of cilantro lime rice to each container. I’ve been having very, VERY happy lunches ever since! :D

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  1. Just for the record these freeze really well. After 3 months they were exceptional. It’s such a great meal to keep in your back pocket. 

  2. My family went ape sh-t over this dish. But, I was wondering should I assemble it up until I bake it then wrap it in plastic wrap then foil to be put into the freezer just don’t add the cheese. Then what would be the bake time from frozen or do I bring it down the night before baking then add the cheese then bake. How long does it last in the freezer? Thanks Beth. 

    1. I’ve never frozen the whole unbaked dish, unfortunately, so that would take some testing before I was able to advise. I usually bake then portion into single servings and freeze that way, so it can just be quickly reheated one portion at a time in the microwave.

      1. Thank you Beth for clarifying. I’m going to bake them all together in their individual pans an freeze them. Thank you 🙏❤️

    2. Can anyone offer any suggestions on freezing these as they are different from your A-typical stuffed shells? I know Beth provided suggestions just wanted to see if anyone had a different approach. 

  3. I’ve come back to this recipe so many times over the years. It’s one of my favorite meals, and freezes so well. Confession, though….I could never be bothered with the process of stuffing shells, though. I’ve always just made elbow macaroni pasta and mixed the whole thing together before dumping the sauce on top. So satisfying. 

    1. Thank you for the idea. I tried it with medium shells an it worked out so well. You can’t find the big jumbo shells right now due to shortages. 

  4. No jumbo shells to be found anywhere but I’m dead set on making this tonight! Going to try to make it with medium shells (not stuffed, but more like a casserole).

  5. Another great recipe!  Thanks for all your hard work, Beth!  We all appreciate you and your wonderful recipes.   

    A couple of changes I made for my family:  I used 3/4 lb of beef and 3/4 lb of turkey.  I also only used 1 cup of cheese.  I will absolutely be making this again and I’m thinking next time I will make 1/2 the pasta and over stuff the shells.  

  6. This was awesome! So delicious! Your enchilada sauce is incredible. I like really saucy pasta, so I would probably double the enchilada sauce next time. But this was super tasty!

  7. AWESTOME!! Only change I made was using 28oz green enchilada sauce in lieu of red. My husband raves about this. I’m made it several times already and now he says to add it to my Christmas Buffet dishes! This is your first recipe I’ve tried now I’m on a mission for many more. Thanks Beth!

  8. My family loves this so much. Everytime I make it I know they will be happy.

    I leave out the chilli and Cayenne peppers because they are just too hot. I’m hoping to find the one in the recipe.

  9. This is my favorite recipe website! These taco stuffed shells are so amazing! It’s been a few years since I have made these for my family, but it was a hit when I did! Thank you Beth!

  10. Made this with the warm corn and avocado salad today, added a lil more spice cuz we like it hot…… AND OMG IT WAS SOOOOOO GOOD! I doubled it for my family of 7, and I have plenty leftover for tomorrow, I hope it lasts that long though. Everyone enjoyed. Thanks for sharing!

  11. This is beyond amazing! The ONLY thing I added was the left over adobe peppers/sauce (from that slow cooker rib recipe) and I am iliving heaven! Thanks Beth- this is a rotation recipe for sure. *ehug*